Most of my (two or three) regular readers know I’m a huge Dahlia Lithwick fan, so it’ll come as no surprise that I think her latest missive is pretty freaking amazing. Stemming from when, in 2004, two West Virginians were thrown out of a state-government-sponsored event (attended by the President) when they deigned to show up with anti-Bush T-shirts on — and then were handcuffed, booked, and put in jail — Lithwick then takes a look at our current Administration’s history of preventing any dissenting voices from attending official White House events. She concludes with a look at the actual White House advance manual for such events, finding that it appears to have become the official policy of the United States to only allow those who are supportive of the Administration to be within earshot of the President. I guess, if nothing else, it explains how clueless Bush is that many of us out here disagree with him… but it’s a sad statement nonetheless.
So, I guess that the dozens of times I’ve been at my local Home Depot and seen a “saw not working” sign on the panel saw, there’s an even-odds chance that the employees just didn’t want to be bothered to help their customers… fabulous.
Wow — the entire Windows Genuine Advantage system is currently down, meaning that every single copy of Windows XP and Vista that tries to authenticate as legitimate is failing the authentication. For users of Vista, this means that the operating system then assumes that it’s a pirated installation and turns off functionality (like the Aero interface, DirectX, and a few other things) — all because Microsoft’s own server infrastructure died. The MS Forums appear to be down right now, but there are reports that the company has promised a fix by Tuesday (wow — three days!), and that users who managed to post to the WGA forum are rightfully outraged by what’s happening.
I’m a person who generally thinks that there’s too much bashing of Microsoft out there, but I have to say that when the company’s anti-piracy features start disabling functionality on legitimately-purchased copies of Windows Vista, all because of an outage on Microsoft’s own end, then every cent of lost business and increased customer support costs is richly deserved.
I’m starting to think that something about me — or about my Google Mail address, specifically — intersects with a group of people who might be among the dullest knives in the drawer. A week doesn’t go by where I don’t receive at least a dozen misaddressed emails to that account; we’re not talking about spam, but rather we’re talking about long, personal emails from someone who’s letting me know that they’re moving to a new house, or sharing the pictures of the party we ostensibly attended together a few days ago, or even my favorite repeat offender, a mother who is passing on the odd bit of news to all her kids. I get full screenplays emailed to me for proofreading, I get confidential legal documents for my review, I even received a set of robo-calling scripts from the Democratic Party of Virginia a few weeks ago. All of these are misaddressed, intended for some other individual with an GMail address similar to mine. I even get people mistyping their own email addresses into web forms, such as all the confirmation emails I received from American Airlines last week for another J. Levine’s flight to London, or the bunch of forwards I got from another J. Levine’s corporate account two weeks ago (forwards which included truly awesome legal letters between a mother and her sons, full of threats of disinheritance and ill will).
I used to get frustrated at all the misaddressed email I receive at my GMail account, but now I treat it as a surreal break from reality, a glimpse into the weirdness that gets passed along in email every day. Maybe I should put up a site with all the email, if for no other reason than to teach people that those long disclaimers they put at the end of their emails (“if you’ve received this in error, you must delete it immediately”, etc.) are meaningless.
Wow — in Nebraska, gas stations are allowed to put any gas price on their signs they want so long as at least one pump at the station is set to that price, even if all the other pumps are set to much higher prices. Of course, most people see the prices on the sign, pull in, and don’t know that they need to check their specific pump’s price, and then find that they just paid a few Hamiltons more than they thought the were going to… what a scam.
If the two-day Skype outage from last week was the result of a flaw in Skype’s own software, why did the company only release an updated Windows version of its client? What about the Mac and Linux users — does the robustness of the software on those platforms not matter?
Shannon and I have seen the TV ad for LifeLock a few times this weekend; it’s the piece where CEO Todd Davis shows his Social Security number all over the place, and then reveals that the only reason he’s comfortable doing so is because of his ultimate faith in his company’s ability to prevent its customers’ identities from being stolen. Of course, the ad made me curious enough to see whether his gambit has paid off — and unsurprisingly, it looks like someone succeeded in impersonating Davis and getting an online loan. Better still, Davis then coerced a confession out of the alleged identity thief, so Fort Worth police had to drop all charges against the guy and the district attorneys aren’t going to pursue prosecution. And the icing on the cake is that LifeLock’s co-founder, Robert Maynard, Jr., seems to be an identity thief himself, and was forced to resign his role at the company amid the allegations.
You can’t make this stuff up.
I’ve got a few short takes today, to try to assuage my guilt for being a bit swamped these days (and also to get rid of a few of these tabs in my browser).
Remember the lawsuit Verizon filed against Vonage, threatening to bankrupt the upstart VOIP provider over technology the Baby Bell claimed was its own? It looks like Vonage might have finally rolled out workarounds to all the disputed tech, and also posted better-than-expected financials — which makes me pretty excited, being that I’ve been nothing but satisfied with our service from the company.
I’ve been slowly working my way through Jane Mayer’s amazing New Yorker piece on the CIA “black sites”, and it’s pretty clear that this is a must-read article for those who wish to learn how far our government has taken its torture of detainees in the all-important war on terror. The worst part of it is that at this point, there’s no question that what the public knows only scratches the surface, and that when tomorrow’s historians uncover the full details of this administration’s assaults on fundamental American liberties, we’ll either be aghast or will have long ago given up the right to express our outrage. (Let’s hope for the former.)
It’s amazing, but Apple really does look to be violating the script.aculo.us license on every single page that’s generated by the .Mac photo gallery. Either that, or they’ve struck some licensing agreement with the tool’s author, Thomas Fuchs — but seeing as how script.aculo.us is released under the extremely permissive MIT license, that’d seem unlikely for Apple to have done.
Cool — I hadn’t put two and two together, but Movable Type 4.0 is using Codepress to provide inline syntax highlighting in its template editors, and has extended the tool so that it recognizes all the Movable Type template tags. A long time ago, I bookmarked Codepress so that I’d remember to come back and take a look at it… looks like I don’t have to do that anymore. :)
Finally, this page might be dangerous for me. That is all.
But of course Apple would release a new Airport Extreme model with gigabit ethernet networking today, three weeks after I bought two of them. I hate that, but if you were waiting for them to correct the glaring gigabit omission, you can grab one at the Apple Store as of today.
Fascinating: one worthwhile way to speed up your Windows PC’s boot time, according to Jeff Atwood (whose advice I usually find worthwhile), is to disable any antivirus software. Unless you (a) are incredibly secure in your network’s ability to detect and thwart malware and spyware, (b) are 100% secure that there aren’t any undiscovered vulnerabilities in Windows — and in the software you run on your Windows machine — that would allow code to run without your explicit permission, I’d say that that’s pretty solidly some bad advice there.